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article imageOp-Ed: King Juan Carlos not the only questionable association for WWF

By Elizabeth Batt     Apr 17, 2012 in Environment
The World Wildlife Fund is facing criticism after King Juan Carlos of Spain (an honorary President), shot and killed an elephant on a safari hunting trip. But after a little digging, His Majesty is not the only questionable association for WWF.
Animal activists are calling for King Juan Carlos of Spain's head on a platter, and they're requesting the World Wildlife Fund deliver it immediately. Already outraged that the monarch had shot an elephant, they went positively rabid after learning that King Carlos was also an honorary president of WWF Spain.
Having donated to WWF a few weeks back, I was embarrassed for the organization, that a high public member had placed ego over common sense. And before anybody tells me that the meat goes to locals and the funds support the community, I am aware of that. Yet I know many hunters whose ethics would not let them shoot something they are not prepared to eat themselves. King Juan Carlos served only to stoke his own ego.
But if you think the WWF will oust Spain's monarch, do not be surprised if it doesn't happen. His Majesty has been hunting all of his life, it is hardly a secret. In fact in 2006, it emerged the Royal had allegedly shot a domestic bear fed honey-laced vodka, to slow its reactions during a hunting trip in Russia.
Furthermore, His Majesty has held the honorary presidency, a symbolic position, since his involvement in the founding of the organization said WWF in a statement released yesterday. And although the secretary general of WWF-Spain, Juan Carlos del Olmo, has requested a meeting with royal authorities to share public concerns and calls for His Majesty to step down, the fund was quick to point out that His Majesty, has no direct involvement in the day-to-day operations of WWF in Spain or elsewhere.
But looking further into other WWF associations, I was disturbed to discover other questionable partnerships. Such as the fact that WWF does not oppose the Canadian seal hunt, a barbaric practice if ever there was one.
Posted on the Seals and Sealing Network, I discovered this statement from the WWF:
"As long as the commercial hunt for harp seals off the coast of Canada is of no threat to the population of over 5 million harp seals, there is no reason for WWF Canada to reconsider its current priorities and actively oppose the annual harvest of harp seals."
What? How can a conservation fund not be concerned about a commercial hunt whose sole purpose is to provide fur for a dying industry?
WWF answered this question in defense of its stance after a query by a WWF donator at Canadian Seal
"WWF is not an animal rights group, a humane society nor an animal welfare organization."
And this is the key. "Conservation" as opposed to "animal welfare." Essentially, if the WWF does not deem a species to be endangered, then it adopts a hands-off approach. Although the Fund advocates for humane methods of hunting, its primary role rests in ensuring "that species are not endangered by over-exploitation."
Yet it doesn't decry exploitation either.
One of the Funds' partners for example, is SeaWorld, — recognized by many activists as the largest exploiter of marine mammals for profit in the world. A look at SeaWorld's record earnings in 2011, are a testament to this, and SeaWorld will pay no taxes in 2011.
A spokesperson for SeaWorld, told the Orlando Sentinel, that although core earnings topped $380 million, the company wouldn't have to make any income-tax payments for 2011. No federal income tax and no Florida corporate income tax either.
According to experts the Sentinel alleged, "private-equity companies are particularly shrewd tax strategists with the companies they purchase — such as SeaWorld." Meaning it stands as an example of why people want tax laws changed and overhauled.
But sadly, it gets even worse.
I recently wrote on the plight of orangutans in Indonesia. After speaking with Ian Singleton, the director of the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program, I leaned that palm oil companies are decimating the Tripa forest on the coast of Aceh province. This deforestation Singleton said, if not stopped, will force the Sumatran orangutan into extinction by end the of 2012.
Now according to Jonathan Latham of Independent Science News, WWF is involved in an International mega-deal that is slipping by virtually unnoticed. Latham explained:
"The global organic food industry agrees to support international agribusiness in clearing as much tropical rainforest as they want for farming. In return, agribusiness agrees to farm the now-deforested land using organic methods, and the organic industry encourages its supporters to buy the resulting timber and food under the newly devised “Rainforest Plus” label."
The "world's biggest wildlife conservation groups have agreed exactly to such a scenario," said Latham, "only in reverse." And it's being led by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).
Through "a series of global bargains with international agribusiness," Latham says, and "in exchange for vague promises of habitat protection, sustainability and social justice, these conservation groups are offering to greenwash industrial commodity agriculture."
Latham's shocking analysis, "Way Beyond Greenwashing: Have Corporations Captured Big Conservation?" should be ringing alarm bells on a global scale. Read his report in its entirety at Independent Science
Have I been pistol-whipped, or am I just naive?
While I doubt I'll be the only person astounded by WWF's associations, there is a lesson to be learned — do the research ahead of time. WWF is not an animal welfare organization (despite all the cute pictures), but a conservation group, and the two are not synonymous. The Fund has conducted good works, which I'm not trying to belittle. But in measuring the success of these achievements, it would be remiss of me not to ask, at what cost did they come?
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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